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NASA astronaut Christina Koch is one of the three space travellers to return to Earth today, having spent 328 days living aboard the ISS. The astronaut now holds the record for the longest single time spent on the orbiting laboratory by a woman.

Over the course of her stint on the ISS, NASA said Ms Koch completed 5,248 orbits of the Earth – a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 round trips to the Moon.

Two more astronauts are coming down on the Soyuz spacecraft, which is set to land in Kazakhstan at around 9.12 AM GMT.

The astronauts are station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency), and Soyuz commander Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

The two European astronauts have spent 201 days in orbit having launched with NASA’s Andrew Morgan last July – although Morgan will stay on the ISS.

NASA said: “After preliminary medical evaluations, the crew will return to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, aboard Russian helicopters.

“Koch and Parmitano will board a NASA plane bound for Cologne, Germany, where Parmitano will be greeted by ESA officials before Koch proceeds home to Houston. Skvortsov will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft to return to his home in Star City, Russia.”

NASA stated it has gathered valuable data on astronaut’s health through Ms Koch’s work, which will undoubtedly pave the way to get astronauts back to the Moon and even to Mars.

The space agency added: “One particular research project Koch participated in is the Vertebral Strength investigation, which better defines the extent of spaceflight-induced bone and muscle degradation of the spine, and the associated risk for broken vertebrae.

“This timely endeavour is expected to provide insight into the development of future countermeasures, such as preventative medicine or exercise.

“These results also could provide recommendations for limiting the amount of force astronauts are subjected to during launch.

“Koch’s most memorable experiments during her time on the station space included work on the Microgravity Crystals investigation, which crystallises a membrane protein that is integral to tumour growth and cancer survival.

“Although crystallisation of this protein has yielded unsatisfactory results on Earth, this investigation leverages extensive protein crystallisation work on the space station, significantly increasing the likelihood of successful crystal growth.

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“Results may support the development of cancer treatments that target the protein more effectively and with fewer side effects.”

Ms Koch also set another record on the ISS when on Friday, October 19, 2019, she and Jessica Meir became the first women to complete an all-female space walk. The pair were tasked with replacing an ISS power controller that had failed.

After the first all-female spacewalk took place outside of the International Space Station (ISS) NASA chief administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the role women have had in the space agency’s achievements and said he believed the first humans to get to Mars could be women.

The pair were tasked with replacing an ISS power controller that had failed. After the historic mission Mr Bridenstine said: “We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman.

“I think that could very well be a milestone. If my 11-year-old daughter has her way, we’ll have a woman on Mars in the not-too-distant future.”

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